MILWAUKEE — Juries in the upcoming trials for two girls charged in the Slender Man stabbing case will be sequestered, the judge ordered Thursday.
Defense attorneys for both Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier had requested the trials, now set for September and October, be moved to another county, or have juries drawn from another county, due to the extensive publicity in the case.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren denied those requests, but on Thursday decided that the local juries will be sequestered, a rare and costly move designed to prevent any exposure to coverage of the case, or to people who might try to influence jurors.
One of Geyser’s attorneys, Anthony Cotton, called the ruling “fantastic news,” given the high chances of even inadvertent exposure to coverage of or comments about the case on the news, in social media or among the community.
Because staying isolated for several days can be a great inconvenience for jurors, Cotton acknowledged more potential jurors may try to skirt service. But he said an extensive questionnaire that has already been answered by more than 100 potential jurors per defendant will give the lawyers and the judge a pretty clear idea about people’s possible biases.
“At least the jury we get will be more protected,” Cotton said of the sequestration news.
Both girls were 12 on May 31, 2014, when prosecutors say they lured a sixth-grade classmate into some woods, stabbed her 19 times and left her to die. The victim crawled to a path where she was discovered by a passing bicyclist. She survived multiple surgeries.
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The girls told detectives they were trying to appease or impress Slender Man, an internet bogeyman. They are charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Bohren rejected efforts to transfer the girls’ cases to juvenile court, and the Court of Appeals affirmed his decision.
Weier is scheduled for trial in September, Geyser in October. Both have been held on $500,000 bails since their arrests. Geyser, diagnosed as suffering early onset schizophrenia, has spent the past several months at a state mental hospital, under a civil commitment order from another judge.
Both girls have entered pleas of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Their trials could be shortened if they decide to admit to the facts of the offense and instead go to trial solely on the insanity defense.
To be found guilty but excused from responsibility, a defendant must show that at the time of the offense they were suffering from a mental disease or defect and that the condition prevented them from appreciating what they did was unlawful, or from conforming their actions to the law.